Summer Festivals and Revelry Abound

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From the Puck Fair on Ireland’s Iveragh Peninsula to Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, there are plenty of festivals celebrating Celtic culture. In differing ways, each stirs the imagination, revs up the spirit and loosens pent up winter blues.

I can’t do them all justice in one blog, so I will concentrate on these two.  The Puck Fair, considered one of the oldest of festivals, features a wild goat being captured, crowned King of the Fair and then returned to his mountain home over a three-day celebration. In contrast, the Edinburgh Fringe is a modern-day programmed event that celebrates creative expression through a multitude of art forms. 

Selling and signing books at a festival, stop by if you are in the area.

Selling and signing books at a festival, stop by if you are in the area.

And, I also want to mention the Irish and Celtic Festivals in the USA which bring some of the celebration to those of us not traveling abroad. For instance, The Dublin Irish Festival, August 2,3,4,, outside of Columbus, Ohio has fabulous music, vendors, programs and even an Author’s Tent. I will be there selling and signing books and giving a presentation of Brigit of Kildare. Do stop by if you are in the area.

But, let us go back to Ireland and the history and flavor of the famed Puck Fair.  We know the fair goes back at least 400 years. The most accepted legend is that the goat is celebrated because during the Cromwell raids of the 17th century, a he-goat escaped his herd and arrived exhausted into the town of Killgorlin, thus warning the towns people to flee the invaders. Another version suggests that the Cromwell era tax on cattle sales created the need to dramatically display that the annual gathering was a goat sale rather than a cattle sale.  Still others say the festival is an ancient pagan rite honoring the Horned-One, and/or that was part of Lughnasa, the summer harvest festival. We do know that Puck translates to he-goblin. We also know that Shakespeare chose the name Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Certainly, the notion of a king (in this case goat) and queen (in this case young girl) being crowned to symbolize the uniting of male/female as a fertility rite was part of pagan tradition. The question remains open if the Puck fair was the celebration of such magic afoot.

Whatever the origins, people honored the rite and combined it with a practical agricultural fair: day one-gathering, holding a horse auction, and selling wares; day two-crowning the King and Queen, having a cattle auction; day three- scattering and returning the mountain goat to the wild.

The quiet town of Killigorlin lies at the top of the famed Ring of Kerry, where the statue of Puck stands overlooking the banks of the Laune. I visited in May so could only imagine the throngs of people who gather for the fair. 

Even bigger crowds gather for the Edinburgh Fringe. Here are some excerpts from its website:

thousands of performers take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows for every taste. From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children's shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibits and events.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, a registered charity, is the company that organizes the structure that underpins the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. In 2018, it spanned 25 days and featured more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 different shows in 317 venues.

All in the name of summer fun and revelry.